Utah Field Guide – Wild Turkey

Benjamin Franklin once called the wild turkey. “A bird of courage.” In fact, if he would have had his way, the wild turkey would be our country’s national symbol. Not the bald eagle.

Two of the five species of wild turkey are found in Utah. Non-native Rio Grande turkeys and the Merriams turkey which is thought to be native. Rio Grande turkeys thrive in cottonwood river bottoms and the perimeters of agricultural areas. While the Merriams turkey prefer higher elevations with ponderosa pines.

It is estimated that nearly 20,000 turkeys live in Utah. Turkey numbers are growing due to the conservation efforts of hunters and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The largest upland game bird in Utah. A turkeys diet consists of nuts, berries, grasses, seeds and green, leafy vegetation. Toms stand 4 feet high with tails fanned. Hens stand 3 feet tall. First year birds are called Jakes and Jennies.

Turkey courtship begins in early spring. The tom’s gobbling serves as a challenge to other males and attracts females. Male turkeys provide no care for newly-hatched chicks.

For more information on the wild turkey and many other Utah critters, check out our Utah Field guide on the web. You’ll find it on the KSL Outdoors page at KSLTV.com

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